Mil­len­ni­als not afraid to quit if job doesn’t fit

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS - By Rex Hup­pke

APERPETUAL mo­tion ma­chine is, the­o­ret­i­cally, a de­vice that func­tions in­def­i­nitely with­out en­ergy from an ex­ter­nal source.

No such ma­chine is pos­si­ble, but this Physics 101 con­cept makes a nice metaphor for the work­place: To keep grow­ing and run­ning smoothly, com­pa­nies need out­side en­ergy. No work­place can at­tain per­pet­ual mo­tion. It needs a spark.

The spark now is com­ing from the mil­len­ni­al­gen­er­a­tion work­ers who are en­ter­ing the work­force in in­creas­ing num­bers. Rather than be con­tent to sim­ply have a job in a bad econ­omy, th­ese young peo­ple are de­mand­ing a sense of pur­pose in their work and the abil­ity to strike a rea­son­able work-life bal­ance. And if they don’t get it, they’re mov­ing on. There are no pre­cise dates for when the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion starts and ends. Most com­men­ta­tors use be­gin­ning birth dates rang­ing from the early 1980s to the early 2000s

A new sur­vey ex­am­ines the job-hop­ping na­ture of mil­len­ni­als — also known as Gen­er­a­tion Y — and raises some im­por­tant ques­tions about how much it costs com­pa­nies to find and re­place young work­ers.

Here are some find­ings from the sur­vey, con­ducted by the con­sult­ing firm Mil­len­nial Brand­ing and the on­line ca­reer net­work Be­yond.com:

Some 30 per cent of com­pa­nies sur­veyed lost 15 per cent or more of their mil­len­nial em­ploy­ees in the past year.

About 87 per cent of com­pa­nies said it cost $15,000 to $25,000 to re­place a de­parted mil­len­nial em­ployee.

Most said mil­len­ni­als leave the com­pany be­cause they don’t con­sider it “a good cul­tural fit.”

About 30 per cent leave be­cause they’ve got­ten a bet­ter of­fer at an­other com­pany, but al­most the same amount say they left be­cause their ca­reer goals weren’t in line with their em­ployer’s.

This sur­vey puts some help­ful data to a trend ev­ery­one knew, at least anec­do­tally, was hap­pen­ing.

“This gen­er­a­tion has dif­fer­ent views of the work­place and what a work­place should be like, and the com­pa­nies aren’t evolv­ing to meet those changes and needs fast enough,” said Dan Schaw­bel, founder of Mil­len­nial Brand­ing and author of the up­com­ing book, Pro­mote Your­self: The New Rules For Ca­reer Suc­cess. “In the years to come, com­pa­nies are go­ing to have trou­ble, be­cause if they can’t re­tain th­ese em­ploy­ees, those costs re­ally add up.”

Jim John, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at be­yond. com, said it’s a mis­take for com­pa­nies to view mil­len­ni­als as dis­loyal. They take charge of their own ca­reers — for their own good, the good of their fam­i­lies and, given the gen­er­a­tion’s height­ened so­cial con­scious­ness, the good of the world around them.

“This gen­er­a­tion has a real ob­jec­tive or sense that, ‘I have to man­age my ca­reer. I have to take con­trol of it and be re­spon­si­ble. Em­ploy­ers are pressed and they hire and lay off in­dis­crim­i­nately, so I have to be re­spon­si­ble to me, and to my fam­ily,’” John said.

Schaw­bel and John said key things mil­len­ni­als look for in a job in­clude: a clear mis­sion and the op­por­tu­nity to build mar­ketable skills; flex­i­ble sched­ules and work-from-home op­tions that en­sure a work-life bal­ance; men­tor­ing pro­grams; and in­ter­nal hir­ing for ca­reer ad­vance­ment.

The sur­vey found 80 per cent of em­ploy­ers be­lieve they can in­crease their mil­len­nial re­ten­tion rate.

“I think that’s op­ti­mism,” Schaw­bel said. “I don’t think they nec­es­sar­ily know how to do it. Work­place flex­i­bil­ity was one of the top con­cerns for mil­len­ni­als, but only half of the em­ploy­ers are us­ing it. So there’s a dis­con­nect there.”

Stephen Bur­nett, a pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment and strat­egy at North­west­ern Univer­sity’s Kel­logg School of Man­age­ment, says it’s coun­ter­in­tu­itive young work­ers in a crummy job mar­ket are able to de­mand they be man­aged a cer­tain way. But that’s what’s hap­pen­ing. “The is­sue with this job-hop­ping is that we have to un­der­stand loy­alty is some­thing that a com­pany now must earn,” Bur­nett said. “Maybe in my gen­er­a­tion, that was less true, but to­day, loy­alty isn’t some­thing the com­pany has a right to. It has to be earned.”

None of this makes mil­len­ni­als self­ish, he said, not­ing the gen­er­a­tion’s fo­cus on the en­vi­ron­ment and com­mu­nity ser­vice.

“They were raised work­ing in the home­less shel­ter and build­ing houses for Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity,” Bur­nett said.

“So in terms of their ca­reer path, it’s all about ‘me,’ but ‘me’ wants to do some­thing that goes be­yond mak­ing me rich.”

Clearly, com­pa­nies need to pay more than lip ser­vice to mil­len­ni­als, and not just to save money by re­tain­ing th­ese young work­ers. The things this gen­er­a­tion wants can bring much-needed en­ergy to work­places that thought they could run for­ever with­out change.

Mil­len­ni­als want clear mis­sions, flex­i­bil­ity and op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­stantly im­prove their skills. You know who else would like that? Prac­ti­cally ev­ery­body who works.

Rather than cast as­per­sions on this grow­ing slice of the work­force — say­ing they’re mis­guided or not loyal — there’s an ar­gu­ment to be made about em­brac­ing what they stand for and rec­og­niz­ing that baby boomers, Gen­er­a­tion Xers and ev­ery­one else might ben­e­fit from a new per­spec­tive.

“Mil­len­ni­als are go­ing to be ask­ing the right ques­tions,” Schaw­bel said. “Why is there a nineto-five work­day? Why are we try­ing to just make money? Why don’t we do some­thing that’s greater for civ­i­liza­tion? Shouldn’t I get rewarded for my per­for­mance, not my ex­pe­ri­ence level?”

He said pro­grams put in place to keep mil­len­ni­als happy will have to be avail­able to ev­ery­one in a com­pany.

“And you know what?” Schaw­bel said. “It’s go­ing to be good for ev­ery­one.”

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